Protect your child now!

Your child needs as much protection as you can give her. But there's no point forcing them. Here's some must-know.

OddNaari OddNaari Feb 12, 2010

Your child needs as much protection as you can give her. But there's no point in swaddling her in woollens or forcing health drinks down her throat, if you yourself are lax about her immunisation schedule. Here's some must-know.

What are vaccines? Vaccines are serums that contain traces of viral and bacterial germs that cause infections. These germs are modified to reduce their capacity to produce diseases in the body.

Basically, a vaccine prepares a child or an adult to fi ght infections in advance. When a vaccine is injected, it produces a mini, infection-like process in the body - and gets the immune system to produce "antibodies" and "memory cells" against a particular type of infection (such as malaria or hepatitis). So when the child is exposed to the same infection later, it has the ability to make antibodies to ward off an actual infection. Vaccines are either injected or given orally.

Why is it so important?
Vaccines are an absolute must because they protect your child from most diseases at a time when new diseases are being discovered every year and pollution levels are hitting the roof. In fact, it's crucial to immunise a baby immediately after birth - it can safeguard him from debilitating and fatal diseases. From a macro point of view, immunisation checks the spread of disease or epidemics in the community at large.

What about reactions?
While every vaccine is studied extensively by scientists to ensure that it's safe, some may cause reactions such as mild pain, redness, fever or rash in your child. Inform your doctor as soon as you can, especially if your child reacts particularly violently to a vaccine.

The caveat...
All said and done, do remember that vaccines can only protect to a certain extent - different vaccines have different proportions of success. Tetanus Toxoid (TT)* has almost a 100 percent protection rate, while BCG's* (to counter tuberculosis) effectiveness varies. Viral vaccines (such as hepatitis, polio, measles) have better and longer protection as compared to vaccines against bacterial diseases (such as TB, typhoid, pneumonia).  Also, vaccines that have been discovered more recently (see 'New vaccines' below) have a higher capacity of protection.  However, most vaccines protect the child from a more severe form of the disease and its complications. It's a good idea therefore, to talk to your doctor at length about the effi cacy of each vaccine so that you don't get complacent and ignore the symptoms.

New vaccines
Till recently, the vaccines available in India only protected children from fatal and crippling diseases. Newer vaccines such as the ones for chicken pox, in addition to protecting against killer diseases, also protect against non-fatal infections that could have severe complications. Check with your doctor and immunise your child with all the vaccines that he recommends. Also, ask him about certain combination vaccines: These are vaccines available in different permutations, to minimise the number of pricks.

What if you make a mistake or lose records?
Talk to your pediatrician. Vaccines are often age-dependent, so if your child has missed any while he was growing up, he may not need certain vaccines after a certain age. There's no need to repeat the entire schedule just because you've missed a couple of vaccines.

Vaccine timetable
Vaccination schedules are drawn up keeping in mind certain factors such as disease patterns in the country, the age at which certain infections are most likely to occur, and the earliest age at which vaccines can give maximum protection and minimise visits to the doctor. As far as possible, stick to the schedule. While postponing or bringing forward a vaccine by a week is usually acceptable, if a vaccination has to be postponed for a longer duration, consult a doctor for a later date or ask if it can be combined with the following month's vaccine. Also, try to make sure that you maintain all the records of your child's vaccination in a proper fi le and keep it at hand.

The Indian government, under the Universal Immunisation Program (UIP), follows a timetable in which a minimum of six vaccines are offered to all infants free of cost. The government, because of limited resources, offers vaccines only against the major killer diseases. The National Immunisation Schedule (see below) is one schedule you absolutely must follow.

Keep in mind:

-  Not all vaccines lead to reactions

-  Not all children develop reactions

-  Reactions may develop with one dose of a vaccine and may not appear when the other doses are administered

-  The development of a reaction such as fever or pain doesn´┐Ż?ft mean that the vaccine is more effective

-  On rare occasions, there can be severe reactions such as convulsion, inflammation of the brain, altered consciousness, very high fever, shock or limpness in the child. In such a case, visit your doctor immediately

When to avoid vaccinations:
-  If your child has had a severe reaction to the previous dose of the vaccine, it is advisable not to give the same vaccine unless your doctor insists upon it

-  If your child has egg allergy, don't give him Measles or MMR vaccine

-  If your child is very sick, postpone the vaccination

-  If your child is receiving blood transfusion, postpone his vaccination by about 12 weeks

-  In case a child suffers from a progressive neurological disease, he or she should not receive Pertussis vaccines such as DPT* (triple) vaccine

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